Happy Valentine’s Day: (Celebrating) Love In The Time of Fat


Saint Francis And The Sow 

The bud 
stands for all things, 
even for those things that don’t flower, 
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing; 
though sometimes it is necessary 
to reteach a thing its loveliness, 
to put a hand on its brow 
of the flower 
and retell it in words and in touch 
it is lovely 
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing; 
as Saint Francis 
put his hand on the creased forehead of the sow,
and told her in words and in touch 
blessings of earth on the sow,
and the sow began remembering all down her thick length, 
from the earthen snout all the way 
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail, 
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine 
down through the great broken heart 
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering 
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath 
the long, perfect loveliness of sow. 
© 1980 by Galway Kinnell 


Yes, sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.

This Valentine’s day, I’m celebrating myself.

This year, I am re-teaching myself my loveliness.

One of my fave ever compositions

I am embracing me in a passionate and wholesome way – #1 on my list of resolutions and something I should have done a lonnnnnnnnnnnng time ago but am glad I am doing now.

I can’t remember when I fell out of love with myself. I suspect though that right about the time I became ‘fat’, I stopped seeing myself as me.

What I do know is that 17 weeks ago, one hot sunny morning, being driven to work,  I realized that my heartfelt odd. Broken. As though shattered in pieces that could never be put together, restored. My eyes watered, tiny drops threatening to bead down cheeks. I sniffed them back, coughed to clear my throat, and continued with life.

Unsure of what to do.

I wanted to ‘fix’ it but I wasn’t sure how.

A few weeks later, I picked up the book ‘Women, Food and God‘ by Geneen Roth. I cast my mind back to how the book came into my possession.

It was one evening in The Netherlands. I must have been daydreaming, eating, cooking….perhaps even doing all three at the same time when my phone rang, its shrillness jerking me out of my reverie.

It was my mother.

The conversation ended with her telling me about the book and imploring me to get two copies, which I did. They arrived and were promptly packed up with all our moving stuff…..not once did I turn a page. Never did I imagine it would be my salvation. Literally.

The whole point of the book is the idea that how we treat food reveals everything…..

Brown cardboard fatigue came and went. Loneliness waxed stronger and I hated home. My country. I wanted to pack my bags and run away, far away from here. To some desert island where peace and love would embrace me so tight, I would beg to be let go.

Raspberry Bakewell Tart

I don’t know what prompted me to open up the book in early December but when I did, I stopped hard in my tracks. I had to stop running. Geneen raised a wall, a concrete wall I could no longer ignore – confront your emotions, understand you, why you eat, don’t fall for the scourge of diets and above all, love yourself. She also mentioned the dreaded word – fat.

It occurred to me then, from Geneen that there was hope for my heart and I.

In one section of the book, she talks about looking in the mirror and wanting to cut off parts of your body. I was stunned. For that very morning, I’d stood in front of the mirror and declared myself perfect….but for the overhang around my midriff and belly, the pounds of flesh that no enemy had come to collect. Yet. If I could rid myself of the dreaded flesh, happiness would arrive on my doorstep, glue in hand to mend the broken heart and all in life would be well.


Geneen said not. She let me know that if you’re not happy fat, the same issues will persist slim.

The core? Love. First love thyself…..and then all the rest will follow.

Geneen Roth implores us to love ourselves.

She doesn’t ask how we eat…..she asks why. She makes you ask why.

Why am I punishing myself – stuffing my face till I feel sick or not eating a thing? What do I think I have done wrong? Why do I want to obliterate me? What is the purpose? Why am I doing what I’m doing?

She shows me I’m not living on borrowed time or in rented space.

She shows me the truth about me  – that there’s room enough for me on this universe and I am worthy of my own love.

Pretty in berry pink

She stretches out her hand and heart, without lists of don’ts and dos. She implores me to love me.

That shocked the hell out of me. For twenty-odd years, I’ve not treated myself with true kindness – yes I’ve ‘kept’ myself but I haven’t ever consciously loved me. All of me. The totality. I’ve admired my writing, patted my smooth (ish) face, been proud of my achievements and all but I’ve hated my legs.
My stomach.
My double chin.
My fat arms.
Bushy eyebrows.
Height and love for flat shoes.
But life has gone on…..
….and so have I.

I’ve eaten uncontrollably, cooked myself into a stupor and used food as a drug.

Don’t get me wrong, food means A lot to me – and I will always love food, but not in the way I used to, where it quelled my anger and frustrations about myself, where I ran to it for comfort, where I abandoned all mental capacity and allowed moving gums determine my future.

Food and I are in this together…. forever. That’s established. I love food – its history, its evolution, recipes.  What has changed is that food and eating no longer crack a whip, domineering over me.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have cravings anymore. What it means is that I no longer have to eat a whole cake, standing to satisfy them. It means I am satisfied with smaller bites that I eat with love and care…and don’t push down my throat with Olympian guts. It means I can calmly walk by pastries in gleaming glass displays and not want to give the cashier a bear hug.

Delicious Shu Mai (Dumplings)

It means I genuinely enjoy what I eat now. Its no longer a tick box exercise to see how many exotic things I can rack up in one day.

It means no more eating stuff I hate either….stuff I don’t enjoy just because I want to ‘lose’ weight. So when I have bowls of olive green broccoli soup in the deep freezer, it is because I enjoy broccoli soup. And though I love lentils, I don’t want to have them 6 times a week to up my protein/lower my carbs to get slim.

What exactly is that? What does that mean to me? It’s taking me a few long years to realize that yes I’ve spoilt myself and everything to do with my food addiction…..but taken care of me? Cared for the person I am…..not often. I’ve nurtured my mind by reading, pleased my eyes and hands with crafts, made friends, lost friends, loved husband and children…..but in all of this a big chunk of me has been absent – Loving me.

It never featured. And why should it have anyway?

I collect checked jar covers

I now understand that until I confront the entire gamut of my emotions, accept them headlong, without fear……I will always be in ‘bondage’.

And so now, I am rejoicing in me – in my current height, weight, and BMI (body mass index). In my ability to be me – human. I no longer need to shield myself behind baggy dresses, and loose jeans though you won’t catch me in hot mini skirts either :-)! I no longer think new friends and old ones too will judge me and my stretch marks and find me wanting.

So am I still fat? I’d say not. Am I at my ideal weight? Haven’t weighed myself in months but if my clothes are anything to go by, I’d say….I’ve dropped a dress size and am on my way to being down 2 dress sizes. Would I like to lose more weight? Yes.

What have I done to get here, to get where I am – eating with freedom?

I read the book. And took away a vital lesson – learn to recognise your belly’s signals. I’d forgotten that hunger and thirst signals are different – now I inquire first, take a moment’s pause and check with my body before I fill my mouth.

Now I eat…when I’m hungry. Go for walks, swim and have NO fear of eating anything, because the mystique, intrigue, allure of food is gone. Now I savour each mouthful, each bite is enjoyed and most of all, I eat less.

I have always hated the feeling of fullness, it made me cry once. So now I stop eating before I feel full, knowing I only start to get the signs 5 or 10 minutes after.

Will I be whole as a result of losing weight? Yes, I will be. Not just from being slimmer, but having the ability to handle my thoughts and emotions!

But I must say, I don’t care so much about how much weight I’ve lost. What I am thankful for is I’ve lost the ‘fear’ of food. Of that slice of apple tart. Meringue pie. All those strange dishes that have stared at me, eyes blazing and announced they were here to do ruin. Do me evil. The scourge of ‘diets’ is forever gone, the chains of bondage broken. That is the victory.

Strawberries in a pink cloud

Do I still have flesh I wish to obliterate – hell yes. Though where there was a sack, there is now a pouch….I’d still like for it to pack its bags and leave. But I wouldn’t be rushing to get lipo or a tuck….anytime soon.

But do I smile at me, appreciate me more when I look in the mirror? YES. Resoundingly so.

A few years ago, my dear friend, M taught me a life lesson which I can only summarise as: Don’t seek affirmation, seek confirmation. Don’t look to others to ‘affirm’ that you are good and intelligent and all the other things we somehow deeply know we are.

Believe it first and let others confirm that which you have first personally affirmed.

Daily I remind myself that I am who I am
That I love me for who I am
And I wouldn’t trade one moment of my sufferings
Or joys
For anything
Because through them I have learnt
To find meaning and courage 
Through them I have realized my role in the matter
That without love, nothing works
Nothing matters
Nothing is important
Can you call pasta ethereal? If it’s homemade, perhaps!
I love the courage with which I tackle new recipes
Unknown ingredients like slimy Octopus
And prickly artichokes
I love how short I am, all the better to walk under doorways
I love how smart I am, I can be 🙂
I love how friendly I am, how loving and kind
I love how I seek meaning and purpose
I love how affectionate I am
How my passions fill my head and heart
I love my eyes, my nose, my mouth
I would change that region around my midriff…but I love how I won’t go there
Won’t have that discussion
I love that I acknowledge the pain I feel
When I feel it
I love me
Not as much as the whole wide world
But I’m working on it
Loving myself a little everyday….
I say to my friends
‘Don’t accept the unacceptable’
Not loving me copiously
In abundance….is unacceptable
I won’t accept it
And so one step at a time
One kind act a minute
I am treating my heart and soul with kindness
Pampering me
Love will rule the day

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~ Buddha

Another great learning? Will power doesn’t grow. For many years I’ve ‘banked’ will power – struggled to control myself and up my resistance to things. And now I get it, its nothing to do with will power and everything to do with understanding, with ‘getting it’, with the ‘awareness’.

And the liberation that comes with knowing that hunger won’t kill me…..neither will brokenness. That love can heal everything. Every hurt, every pain, every tear. That love is a magical thing. That freedom is totally awesome. Totally life-changing.

Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly proud of myself but what is most fundamental is that all the will power in the world will not change how fat or slim you are – only understanding WHY can do that.

And that’s why Geneen Roth is in my hall of fame.

So this Valentine’s day, I am celebrating myself…..and thanking God for Geneen.

What love? Potato love

 On Women, food and God, “This is a hugely important work, a life-changer, one that will free untold women from the tyranny of fear and hopelessness around their bodies. Beautifully written, a joy to read, rich in both revelation and great humor.” — Anne Lamott, author of Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith

Personally I say it is a great book for women and a wonderful resource for everyone – the issues she deals with are not exclusively feminine issues but are human ones! So men, give it a go!
I wish you love  – not just today…… but for the weeks, months and years to come. Happy Valentine’s Day.


  1. First I read it in a rush, then I read it again slowly. I smiled, and cried and then saw myself. This feels like a love letter from an old friend telling me to take back my power and love myself again. This is truly beautiful, I will read it again and again and again..

  2. Bless you! You are a breath of fresh air! really! I’d love to add ‘ I love the courage with which you write this blog’. Truly Inspiring.

  3. Thank you Oz,for this post… I feel set free to begin a journey that’s been a long time coming for me. I have battled with losing weight ALL my life. But the more I think about it, the more I realise the real issue runs way deeper than losing weight. I really just feel people would like me better if I were slimmer, that I’d be beautiful and more accepted, which is what I have always desired. Reading this post has given me a lot of kind wisdom, it has opened my eyes to a new way of looking and seeing. Thank you for your honesty and for sharing Geneen’s book. I’m now going to begin to re-teach myself my loveliness. Thank you, thank you! God bless you sweetly!

    • Dearest Adanma, I’m so glad it helped. I still have to remind myself that the me I see in the mirror is the same one people love, some unconditionally. I believe it even though I have to remind myself.

      You’re very, very welcome. Stay well – you’re worth it.

  4. Adored this post – and loved your honesty which we can all learn from. Just as you I am very foodie and would happily spend my day experimenting with new ingredients, sharing recipes with others and working out how I can tread softly on this small planet. That book was strangely enough a feature at our writers group, waiting to be shared out amongst our gathering. The world certainly moves in mysterious ways…

  5. Wow, Oz. Love this. You have everything I adore on one page – food, poetry, insight and glorious photos that speak on many levels. You speak the words most of us only dare to think. Thank you.

  6. Dear Oz

    I read this post last week and it really touched me how honest and beautiful it was. You really brought inner thoughts into a beautiful and honest light. It strung a chord with me and for days I thought about it and realized I did not leave a comment. I am new on this blogging thing.. but like you, food is a complex and beautiful part of my life:)

  7. Thank you for your very brave post, I am comforted to know others struggle with self image and love of self. Inspired and lyrical, lovely!

  8. Love yourself first. A rule most of us do not follow, especially those of us who are ‘fat’. You share in such a beautiful way, wishing you a self loved Valentine’s Day.

  9. My dear, dearest Ozoz, I am crying as I finish reading your post. Wishing for one of your big squeezy hugs followed by a long talk over coffee. 🙂 Thank you so much for this, for echoing in words what I’ve been feeling in my heart yet been too afraid to speak aloud. I love you. I’m so proud of you. And I’m SO grateful you are in my life. xo

  10. I’m here after a long time, and happy to see that you’re writing and cooking even better than before. 🙂
    A lot of that resonates with me, and believe me when I say that I see the beauty in you that comes through your writing. Here’s to love! 🙂

  11. WAO! Ozoz, so beautifully written. Very engaging and inspiring. I will take another good positive look at myself and it will be my beginning steps to freedom. Well done,

  12. It’s so true, Oz. If we’re not happy at this point, this instant in life, if we’re not content with what we have and who we are, then losing weight, making more money, all of those things, won’t change it. I’m glad you found some peace. xx

  13. So good to have a new out look on life. I enjoyed this post…so happy to hear all of this. It is such a good reminder to love yourself, as moms and wives we do tend to get shoved under the rug. Thanks for sharing…Happy Valentine’s Day Oz!

  14. So much of this resonates with women because for many of us, in the midst for caring for others and about others, we somehow lose ourselves in the bigger picture. Things are done out of necessity instead of enjoyment and therefore nothing seems enjoyable.

    Seizing back yourself is so important. To get to know yourself again and to appreciate yourself =)

  15. Oh Ozoz, what a beautifully written, soul-baring post. Here’s a great big bear hug for you, so pleased you are on a beautiful journey of love.

  16. I’ve been following your blog for a couple of months now. One of the things I appreciate most in people is what I call “transparency”, being oneself as is a transparent material that has nothing to hide. I find that in your posts, thank you for your trust and openess! I just learnt about your friend Renu, I’m trully sorry for those of you who lost her, once more thank you for sharing your thoughts, feelings, your time and your work. Happy Valentine’s!

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